Choosing Web Hosts -- Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting
The two most common web hosting methods for many small business owners are shared hosting and VPS hosting. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, which will be discussed in this article.
Shared hosting is when one server hosts many websites. These websites all share the same resources available from the server that they're built on. While this results in cheaper server costs, it also means that one shared host server can potentially have thousands of different websites drawing a varying amount of resources from it.
Since websites on shared hosting servers all share the same resources, sometimes a "power struggle" can occur between sites. That is, if one site on the server starts using an extensive amount of resources, there will be less available resources for all of the other sites on the server. A significant reduction in site performance can result from resource-intensive "neighbors" on the server.
Shared hosts provide a fully-operational server configuration for your website to operate from once it's ready. Since the host comes preconfigured for each website, server maintenance is extremely minimal for the user. Unfortunately, it also means that customizing certain server settings becomes an issue real fast, such as custom firewall configurations, website mods and packages, no root level access, inability to manually restart the server, and other limitations.
If your website starts getting increasingly large amounts of traffic, your website may become that pesky neighbor that uses up most of the resources on the server. As discussed earlier, becoming a resource-intensive neighbor on the server means that your neighbors' sites suffer from reduced performance. This creates a whole other issue: a shared host may warn you to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server if using up large amounts of system resources becomes regular behavior for your site. Migrating a website from one type of hosting environment to another on the same host might mean server downtime, which is a hassle that is obviously undesirable for any business.
Security can also be an issue with shared host servers. Since every website on the host shares resources, this also means that if one site is hacked or infected with malware, all of the other sites are at risk of being targeted as well. In addition, it is possible that your site's e-mail service may be blacklisted if a "neighbor" is sending spam email. This can occur because the server shares the same mail service.
To summarize all of the above points:
Pros of Shared Hosting
- Lower cost per month
- Simple and easy to manage
- Little or no server maintenance required
- Good choice for smaller amounts of website traffic
Cons of Shared Hosting
- Higher security risk
- Customization is heavily limited
- Can't handle large amounts of website traffic
- More susceptible to performance issues
- Little room for expanding server resources, if the need arises
VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting
VPS hosting is when multiple websites are hosted in their own VPS on the server. A VPS (virtual private server) is a private space within a server that is assigned its own operating system. VPS hosting and shared hosting aren't worlds apart in terms of differences. However, since each website has its own space to work from, and comes with its own operating system, this creates a distinct separation of resources between sites. (This is the primary distinction between shared hosting and VPS hosting.) Even though every site is on the same server, each VPS is given its own fixed amount of resources available from the server to work from. A fixed amount of resources is a concrete limitation (unlike with shared hosting), but if the need arises, upgrading a VPS to more server resources is a quick process with little to no server downtime.
A VPS is very customizable and has higher quality performance compared to a shared host, due to the VPS having its own operating system with fixed available resources. Website administrators can use full root permissions to modify the server to their liking. Each VPS gets to enjoy its own private mailing server as well, which, again, adds to the customization of the website administration.
Compared to shared hosting, security isn't as much of an issue with VPS hosting because each VPS is its own space in the server. If one website's security becomes compromised, it doesn't effect the other neighbors on the server; they are their own entity, not related to the victim VPS.
To summarize all of the above points:
Pros of VPS Hosting
- More secure than shared hosting
- Highly customizable
- Higher performance (dedicated server resources)
- Able to handle larger amounts of website traffic
- Easy to expand resources, if the need arises
Cons of VPS Hosting
- Higher monthly cost than most shared hosts
- Requires manual server maintenance and therefore higher skill
Hopefully this has cleared up a bit of confusion regarding what the difference is between these two hosting environments. In short, higher flexibility, security, and performance make a VPS host more costly than shared hosts. However, if the website in question requires consistency of performance that needs to be able to handle larger amounts of traffic, the cost is well worth it in the long run.